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Should Step-Relationships Be Maintained After Divorce?


What was once considered a rarity—step-siblings, step-parents, and step-in-laws—has become more common than not. When couples marry, there is a very good chance that one of them brings an extended family that branches by halves and steps. And if that couple winds up divorcing, the tree splinters even further. Because there is no biological bond that obligates a step-family member to stay in contact with other steps, the rules of engagement can be confusing and tense. In a recent article, marriage experts explain how to navigate the rocky road of step-relationships after divorce.

Take, for example, the case of an ex-wife who spent decades raising her step-children. Should she continue the relationship with these nonbiological children, even though she has no legal claim to them? Mary T. Kelly, a marriage therapist from Colorado, notes that often step-children can be a contributing factor to divorce. Many blended-family parents disagree over how to raise his, hers, and their children. Tension that exists between step-children and step-parents seems like normal childhood rebellion, but in many cases may actually run deeper.

Paul Hokemeyer, a New York therapist, says couples and children need to determine if they want those relationships to continue after divorce. Many children may not be permitted to make contact with their ex-step-parents while they are minors, but can make the choice whether to have a relationship with that significant person when they reach adulthood. Even step-grandparents get caught in the mix when step-families divorce. Grandparents who become attached to step-grandchildren, only to have them taken away, may not be willing to invest as much into future step-family members.

One Massachusetts psychologist, Patricia Papemow, recommends that clients try to initiate contact through letters rather than personal visits or phone calls. It is important for step-children to be allowed to have time to process the shift in the relationship on their own terms. Letting them know a step-parent is there through cards and letters is a noninvasive and subtle way to continue contact and keep the door open for future communication. Regardless of how an individual chooses to stay in contact with their step-children, Hokemeyer insists that they review their motives so that all parties will be receptive. “Make sure that you are acting out of genuine love and concern for the other person, and not out of anger and attempts to manipulate,” Hokemeyer says. Following these tips could help step-exes maintain important family ties in a world of ever-changing family dynamics.

Gootman, Elissa. When branches tangle in a stepfamily tree. (n.d.): n. pag. The New York Times. 3 Oct. 2012. Web. 8 Oct. 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/04/fashion/-step-family-trees-with-tangled-branches.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

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  • Isabelle October 22nd, 2012 at 10:48 AM #1

    I think that a large part of whether or not this happens is exactly how close the relatiosnhip was with the steps.

    If this is something that really meant nothing when two adults with adult children marry and then divorce, and you have not really created a close relationship with those kids, then I would not expect you to stay in touch after there is a divorce. But if it is a case like it is with me and my step dad, who raised me and I think of as my father, if he and my mom were to ever divorce I would in no way ever stop seeing him and I know that he feels that way about me. So just like with anything else this is going to be very individualized and will come down to how each person feels about the step relationships that they have created and how they play out in their lives.

  • mason October 22nd, 2012 at 11:31 AM #2

    Look at it the same way you viewed the marriage- if it made a positive impact on your life, then by all means try to save it/ if not then toss it to the curb

  • Danielle October 22nd, 2012 at 4:39 PM #3

    When my dad and step mom got divorced I couldn’t have been happier to see her go unless it had been sooner.

    No these are not always happy relationships, no are they always healthy, and I don’t think that they always have to be maintained.

    the desire to have that happen must be mutual and if it isn’t then what is the need to even try?

  • Stan October 22nd, 2012 at 7:29 PM #4

    I think this depends on the relationship shared by the two individuals.If they have been close enough then why not.On the other hand,each person must respect the other’s decision if the latter does not want to stay in touch with the former.It can happen,you know,things do change in a family after divorce.

  • DARIUS October 22nd, 2012 at 11:31 PM #5

    I would never want to stay in touch with my step brothers and sisters because frankly they have been everything that siblings aren’t. There should be no compulsion in any relationship and step relations are no different. Its a mutual thing and I prefer it remains that way.

    Alert – Do not put yourself under any kind of obligation if you do not want to stay in touch with someone!

  • Layla October 23rd, 2012 at 4:03 AM #6

    So hard, especially if the relationship has been fraught with a lot of tension in the past

  • ruth October 23rd, 2012 at 7:35 AM #7

    I have maintained a very good relationship with my step sons even after their father and I have separated.Its never been anything but smooth for all of us because the separation did not involve any conflict either and I hope it stays that way.They are really nice kids and they like me too.

  • V.X October 23rd, 2012 at 2:05 PM #8

    I think its best to bury such relationships. Mainly because the divorce happening means there was bitterness between the two sides and it is best not to have any connection with members of the family your folks have some conflict with.It could lead to even bitter things in the future.

  • stressmom October 23rd, 2012 at 5:52 PM #9

    @ VX just because there was bitterness or animosity between the parents that doesn’t mean that that existed between the parents and the kids.
    What if this was a very important relationship to one or the other?
    Should they be forced to give that up just because the marriage falls apart?
    I think that it takes a little more than this to force the severing of any relationship, and you have to make the choices that feel like they will be in the best interest for you and your family.

  • Chris October 23rd, 2012 at 8:36 PM #10

    My ex and I divorced after 18 years of marriage. I met his children, who lived with their mother, when they were 9 (boy) and 11 (girl). They spent every other weekend with us until they could drive. The 4 of us also took an annual vacation together. Since the divorce I have remained close with the girl who is now 42 and the executer of my will. In support of his father, the boy chooses to have no contact with me. Family is who you choose to be your family.

  • Robin October 24th, 2012 at 10:13 AM #11

    i would love to be in touch with someone who was a part of family.I love having family members in touch and even if there has been a divorce i think I would stick with my step brothers and sisters. Just because your friend does not like a particular person does not mean you should stop being friends with the person,isn’t it!

  • Vicki January 31st, 2013 at 9:51 AM #12

    My son and wife have divorced. She had 4 children from previous relationships.They had 1 child together.My dilema: Her “previous” children have never been close to my husband and I. We have always send BD cards with cash to each, with no acknoligement or thank you in return. Do I continue with BD cards? I do not want to be disrespectful.

  • Sarah January 31st, 2013 at 11:05 AM #13

    I think you should still send BD cards but instead of giving money why not open savings accounts or buy children’s premium bonds from the post office and then you can give them lump sums when they reach such an appropriate age, this could mean the difference between getting driving lessons or not, paying for a smart suit for a job interview or not, or generally having a blast on that 18th or 21st birthday. I have 2 step children and I’m no longer with thier Fathers, I still send them BD cards, but both of an age where they earn but I stick £20 in for them as it buys a couple of pints or bottles of wine. But I also have god sons and I told the parents not to expect BD presents or xmas presents as I had set up an account and money goes into them, once they are of age then they can have it. xxx Good luck with your decision

  • Vicki January 31st, 2013 at 2:45 PM #14

    Thank you so much, what good advise.

  • Heartbroken February 22nd, 2013 at 5:09 AM #15

    My ex and I divorced 4 years ago. We have a 7 year old daughter and I have an 11 year old son that has always called his stepfather Dad. The relationship has been difficult at times because my son is quiet and a bit socially awkward. The children have visited my ex together over the last 4 years. Now my ex has decided he doesn’t want to see my son anymore. I feel like he is misinterpreting my son’s “anti-social” behavior when he visits to mean he doesn’t want to be there. I have spoken to my son about this extensively to see if he does in fact enjoy visiting and he does. I think this would be catastrophic to my son and he would feel unwanted and rejected. It is not a clean break since my daughter would still visit and speak to my ex regularly. HELP! Does anyone have any advice?

  • zozo April 15th, 2013 at 9:04 PM #16

    My BF of almost a year was married for just about a year and was step dad to her son. They dated for two years prior to getting married and so formed a bond with her now 6yr old son. He still saw his dad weekends and still continues to do so. My question is my Bf wants to still see her son and still have a relationship with him – bearing in mind its been a year since he last saw him as she didn’t want him around him or me. She has she has since moved on and become engaged. What i need help with is knowing if this will be healthy for the boy as he will be torn between 3 ‘father’ figures and will it be healthy for my bf as she has a tendency of always making arrangement’s only when it suites her and has also cancelled the visits because she feels like it. She has made demands for what she thinks he needs has gifts over Christmas, almost like she is still trying to control my bf. please help

  • Trina May 24th, 2013 at 11:23 AM #17

    I was happy to find this discussion, and surprised to see another ex-step mother after 18 of marriage to the kids dad.

    I have no children of my own. My step daughter was 11 and my step son 9 when their dad and I got together in 1993. They were living 1000 miles away from us, but we had them in the summer each year and every time we could visit or afford to fly them down. I helped pay child support to their mother each month until they were each 18 and also any extra that we had to work together to afford like braces and senior trips prom dresses and cars. My step daughter came to our state to get her college degree and she lived with us for several years. My point being that I love them with all my heart and now love their children (each has a child now one 6 and one 2) Their father divorced me last year and has remarried a younger woman who was a mutual friend of ours before the divorce. . I was heartbroken and am making every effort to make a new life for myself without the family I love so much in my life anymore. That’s all I am going to say about that. He and his new wife have asked the rest of the family not to invite me to family events ( My nephews HS Graduation to be specific that just happened this month, I have known him and loved him since he was born) Dad flew both kids and grandkids down for the weekend and I didn’t get to see them. However in a moth I am flying up to see my two step children and my step-grandchildren for 10 days. I am very excited and they are looking forward to our time together too.

    When I decided to enter this family relationship I did so with every intention of getting along with The kids mother. Even though there was still a lot of animosity between her and my husband, I tried at every turn to encourage healing and a positive attitude toward her with my husband and the kids. I feel any step mother owes that to the children. Eventually we became a well-adjusted family that could share holidays as ex-partners should with respect and mutual concern for the children. Their mother introduced me to her mother as the kids “Other Mother” it was very graceful of her to do so and we have a cordial relationship to this day. My relationship with their father has ended and we vowed not to be negative about the other to anyone I the family. It is easy to slip into a blame game when you are in pain, but believe me it is worth the restraint when it comes to keeping friendships and respect for yourself. He and I divorced with respect for each other. It was extremely painful and I don’t know if I will ever be able to fall in love again, nor do I see myself wanting to, but time can change things I know. The children (who are both now 30ish) discussed it between themselves and have told their father that they want to continue a relationship with me. I am so happy that they are willing to work through the complexities of crafting a new kind of relationship with me outside of the rest of his large family and my ex-husband. I am still not sure that this will solidify into a permanent situation, they still live very far away, and now when they come here to visit family I am not included in any family get together, but I am going to make every effort to maintain our relationship because these are my children were my heart is concerned.

    I believe being a successful step-parent comes down to a few important guidelines. First know that this is not a simple commitment and you will have to work very hard, forgive much, and understand your place in the family. You are not a “New bride” who has your man’s undivided attention when he has children! You must treat everyone concerned with respect. Even if the parent does not respect the ex, you cannot allow yourself to be involved in negativity toward the other parent, you will hurt your relationship with the children if you do. You must be selfless as a step parent. You are not allowed the same selfishness you can display in a simple marriage. Just as a good parent must sacrifice that selfish part of their nature when they become a parent, for the good of the helpless baby they have brought into the world, you must not allow yourself to feel jealousy or animosity toward the children or the parent because you will not come first in anyone’s life. That is just a fact, because you are the outsider entering an established family dynamic even though the parents are divorced. If you marry someone who has children you should be prepared to love them as your own, if you do not you will never make this work.

    There is nothing like the amazing feeling of a child loving you, trusting you, looking to you for happiness and love. Even though the road has been painful I would travel it again to feel the way I do about my step-children, and the love I get from them.

  • Troy January 31st, 2014 at 9:33 PM #18

    when I was 9 my mom remarried and it was a big adjustment after 4 years of being the man of the house. At first I hated my step Father but by the end of their 3 year mairrage I loved him. After the divorce my brother and I visited him a few times..Then we stoped when my mom re-married. Its been nearly 9 years and I still think of him often. The dilima Do I try to contact Him after all this time and put it all out there ? And druge up the past. Is it selfish of me to want to ? I know my mom broke his heart and hes never re-married or moved or anything. So Thoughts on a complicated situation ???

  • Crystal February 11th, 2014 at 8:06 PM #19

    I am also glad this discuss is on here. Troy no you are not selfish at all for wanting to contact him! He was a part of your life and you are entitled to have contact with who ever you want! I am sure he would love to hear from you.

    I know divorce all to well. My mom divorced 3 times and I went through all of them with her. She was married to the man I consider my stepdad for 12 years. They got married when I was 10 and divorced when I just turned 22. My mom was so caught up in herself that she forgot to even ask if I was okay. My biological father past away just a year before and it was like loosing a dad all over again for me. I was very hurt and no one bothered to console me. My mom wanted to cut all ties and she would talk for hours about how horrible my stepdad was for doing this to her (even though they had been having problems for years). I was just out of college starting my career and then met my husband and married. It was a big time in my life. Due to the divorce my mom wanting nothing to do with my happiness and practically emotionally abandoned me. I went through several years of depression not knowing why I felt this empty hole in my life. I had a son and things got worse between my mom and me and we eventually stopped talking. After slipping into a deeper depression I got the courage to look up my former stepdad and contact him. He was so happy to hear from me and immediately wanted to meetup. He had remarried and I was very nervous about meeting his new wife and having her not only except me, but my husband and child. We met up with them and they were so loving and welcoming and have sense kind of adopted me into their family. I could not ask for more support and love from them.

    So my advise to anyone thinking about reconnecting with a stepparent, I say go for it, Remember they did not divorce you, they divorced your parent. If they did not keep in touch with you if was probably due to them thinking they could not because of your parent, not because of you! I am sure they will be delighted to hear from you and though it might take baby steps to get to where I am at, e-mailing is the first and easiest step! Just tell them you are thinking of them and miss them.

  • Lillian March 14th, 2014 at 6:13 PM #20

    I was in a 10 year Relationship.I’m not sure what is the right thing to do for my daughter. My ex raised her Throughout the years he has been so good to her. He doesn’t have children of his own. He considered her his own. So it has been a year and 3 months that we broke up. During the break-up we both agreed to co parent my daughter and be civil. But through the break up we were still seeing each other. At times I would stay at our house to take care of our dog when he supposedly was on a fishing trip with his bff. So at times I’ll find birthday cards to him from this women. And pics. He always had a explanation for everything that I found and heard. So during those times my daughter and I asked if he had a girlfriend. He insisted that he didn’t have one he always said he has friends not girlfriends. So I was naive and wanting to believe him. But finally I found out the truth and he finally confess to us he indeed has a girlfriend. I was out rage because we were having unprotected sex. And told me he didn’t care how I felt and he didn’t need to explain anything to me. During this time my daughter was still living in the house she grew up in. I stay at my sisters. Later I found out that the women and her 5 yrs daughter are moving in. While my daughter didn’t know anything about that. He finally broke the news to her. My daughter couldn’t believe this was happening because he supposedly been only seeing this woman a few months. And my daughter decided to move out and didn’t want anything to do with him. Because of his lies and selfishness. Until this day he blames me for my daughter not seeing him. It has been hell with this man he keeps hurting us being with his new family and wants my daughter to be part of it. So what’s the moral thing to do. Does she continued to see him and except his new life. Or does she leave him alone . So we all can go on with are lives. She’s 16 yrs.old and confused what to do.

  • tammy March 17th, 2014 at 3:26 AM #21

    Guess you could say my situation is a little different.. I have a step daughter who I raised for 8yrs(7-15) Her father and I have been apart for a few years but my daughter and I still keep in touch some. My current boyfriend wants me to cuts all ties pointing out she is not my child. She is though. Her and my other children get along great. How do I get him to understand that.

  • Devastated March 31st, 2014 at 4:04 PM #22

    I’ve recently seperated from my husband and desperately in need of some advice!! I have two children from a previous relationship and two with my husband. He also has a son from previous who I’ve bought up from the age of 3 and he’s now 8. I have step parental responsibilty for him and now my husband says I’m not his biological mother and wants to take him to live with him he has a residency order for him before he married me and I got step parental responsibility after we got married. Can I not stop him from doing this, I love my step son and have been the main carer for 5 years am scared how this change will affect him as he’s got other siblings he’s been around and am the only mother figure he knows. What are my rights?

  • Wildflower May 12th, 2014 at 9:01 PM #23

    I have been raising my bf daughter for 4.5 yrs. since she was 3.
    Him and his ex have 50/50 custody.
    When I moved in with him I immediately became a full time mom
    28 days a month for the first 2.5 yrs.
    I love this child as if I gave birth to her myself.
    I consider her my daughter. And she considers me her mom.
    We are so incredibly close and do everything together.
    If her dad and i were to break up. I know she would be greatly affected. As well as myself.
    I would definately seek counsil if I were you.
    It would be traumatizing to a child to have someone they love as a parent to just leave. And the children, animals they grew up with and know as thier family to just disappear.
    That would feel like abandonment.
    And would scar a child for life.
    In the state of CO the courts do acknowledge the child’s emotional welfare. If the child really truly considers you a mother to him.
    You are considered a mother to that child and if it is determined so….
    You can have rights to that child.
    I dont know about other states.
    Its not about the biological parents.
    Its your Love and Relationship with that child that matters.
    I would fight for that.
    If that fails. I would write letters. Send bday- holiday gifts. Try to visit and make sure that child knows I will always be there and love him.
    If that’s all you can do.
    When he gets older hebwill know you fought for him and always will love him. And be there for him.

    God Bless

  • Elizabeth June 8th, 2014 at 12:01 AM #24

    On my way to a divorce we have two together and he has one before marriage. My step son is unhappy and misses his mom, but also wants to stay here with his siblings. His dad is going over seas and his mom lives up north. I’m not sure how he is going to take being away from both of them and with me. My stepsons dad wants him to stay here but I don’t know if it’s best…thoughts anyone I’m confused he is only 9 and has already switched schools 5 times another concern I have

  • Denise June 8th, 2014 at 8:49 AM #25

    I have a stepdaughter who I helped raise for 9 years while her father and I were married. Her bio mom and I get along well. After the divorce I was allowed to see her until my ex husbands girlfriend came into the picture. Now he don’t want me seeing my stepdaughter and has threatened me with restraining orders. Because her mom and I are friends now he has now forbid me from taking our son to see his sister. He says it’s best for the kids to see one another only at his house. I don’t get it. A year after our divorce he let me pick up my SD at his house. She is now 15 and doesn’t want to see her dad. But because it’s court ordered, he makes her go.

  • I don't knw June 13th, 2014 at 9:01 AM #26

    I’ve been dating this man for 7 months but being knowing for 25 years. He just came out of a relationship of 15 years. I would get angry with some of his confusing actions on how he feels he must take care of grown adults (21-24) and a 9 years old grandchild – no biological kids. Plus he warned me not to bring the discussion up again.

  • scared4kids June 22nd, 2014 at 3:51 PM #27

    Hi. Long story short. I married a man 2 years ago knowing he had kids. I have two grown up children, he has three aged 10, 12 and 15. We married quickly when we were both on the rebound, having both been previously married over 17 years. His children moved in with us after six months. They took to me really well and showed me love and respect. I treat them as my own. Their father is currently still fighting for custody of them after their mother abused them. The children do not want to see their mother. I left my first husband due to repeated infidelity. Now my current husband is cheating also and I want out. My main concern is for the children as I will be moving over a hundred miles away. I am currently the only reason they are not in care. But for very personal and justifiably reasons I can not continue my marriage with their father. I fear for the children and desperately need some guidance. Any help and support would be greatly received on how I should handle this. The children living with me will not be an option at this time, even though this would probably be the best solution. I fully intend to stay in close contact with them but fear my distance will not be enough to stop them going into care. Their father and I are splitting amicably and will remain friends. Please help. Many thanks

  • Alana June 23rd, 2014 at 10:47 PM #28

    My dad and my ex step-mom married when I was about six years old. My dad had me, my older brother, and my older half-sister at the time while my step-mom brought two sisters to the pcture.

    Emily and I were only a few months apart so we instantly became inseparable, best friends. Sutton, she was 3 years youger than me and I really enjoyed being able to finally be a big sister (seeing as before I was the baby including my cousins who were all in college when I was born) Ian my older brother was 9 (3 years older than me) and Ridley 12 (6 years older than me)

    I never had the best of relationships with my mom. She was verbally abusive, my former step-father physically and sexually which I always blamed her for because even though I never told her I felt like she should magically know

    When I was with my father and step-mom and my siblings I felt like I was part of a normal family for once especially after they had my baby brother Julian when I was 13

    At age 16, ten years after they were married, they set us down and told us they were getting a divorce. It tore us apart, it put my father into depression, Emily became suicidal, it killed us all in its own ways. My family that I had so desperately needed and wanted was being ripped away from me. I had already been through this 2 previous times but this time it was the worst thing imaginable. It’s been a year (I’m now 17) and I still find myself mourning the loss of my family. Sometimes I think it would be easier if they were dead as horrible as that sounds.

    They told us we would all still keep in touch, my step-mother told me she would always be like a mother to me but that was a load of crap. Even if she wanted to mean it, everything changed

    For any adults reading this that are contemplating a divorce, know these things
    1) it affects everyone in a family not just a couple
    2) marriage shouldn’t be something you just give up on
    3) divorce changes everything
    4) your children are fragile, through remarriage you had finally given them what they always dreamt of, a family with a mom and a dad. If you rip that away from them, it’ll break them, crush them, suffocate them. I know this from experience and I also know that your children will resent you for it. All of us, minus Julian seeing as he is only four, resent our parents and will never forgive them for hurting us this badly

    So PLEASE fight for your family. If you can’t fight for your marriage or for your spouse, do it for your children. If all else fails and you get a divorce, don’t lie and tell your kids nothing will change, be honest because even if it hurts them at the time maybe they will eventually forgive you

  • Alana June 23rd, 2014 at 10:51 PM #29

    I urge you if you can find it in you to salvage the marriage, do it for your children, try and make things work.

  • Sara June 26th, 2014 at 11:48 PM #30

    I strongly agree that it should be maintained if you had a good enough relationship.

    I’m 15 years old and about a month ago my father called me and told me that him and my step-mom were getting a divorce. (After they were together for almost 4 years and had a son together.) It of course was really sad news but was good in a way since my father verbally (and I guess mentally) abused her. In the beginning he told me that I’d still be able to see her. (which it wouldn’t have matter if he told me I couldn’t since my mom has full custody over me.) Soon after he had problems with her and told me that she is no longer a part of the family and that I should stop seeing her. I told him that she will always be my step-mom despite them getting a divorce, she also has my 2 year old half brother (whom I really love.) A month and half later I’m sleeping over at her new house and hanging out with her no matter what he says. (He’s “fine” with it now but we’ll see.) Short story short I believe that you should maintain a relationship with a step-parent despite a divorce. Because hey it’s not you it’s happening too so it shouldn’t have to effect your ability to see/speak to them.

  • devistated July 26th, 2014 at 9:56 AM #31

    So long story short my now ex boyfriend had a 15 month old son when we met. The little boy was abused by his biological mother and has no contact and I have been his mother for the last almost 4 years. I’m the only mother he has but I have no legal rights to him since dad and I split up. We also have a one year old son together too. My heart is absolutely broken to have my family split and I have no idea how to explain to him (hes almost 5) that I can’t be his mommy. He is and always will be my son and I don’t know how I’m going to be able to cope with not having him. Any words of advice would be greatly appreciated!

  • Monica July 26th, 2014 at 10:24 AM #32

    I just want to commend you for being so mature!

  • Judi August 2nd, 2014 at 5:10 PM #33

    I left a 30 yr marriage 5 yrs ago
    we did not have children together but I had 2 and he had 2. I helped raise his kids since they were 7 and 10. The step kids do not bother with me anymore…Christmas,Thanksgiving, Easter, birthdays. I don’t have any family just my kids. no parents aunts uncles
    I’m devastated. They do invite my children which is great.
    I cant let it go.

  • Judi August 2nd, 2014 at 5:22 PM #34

    #2 comment
    after reading a few of your letters I decided to add that I am friends with my step kids Mom
    And I never called them my step kids only here.
    30 years! They are respectful but do not invite me to anything and do not come to my house even after repeated invitations. I realize it is akward for them to decide to invite me or their Dad but he doesnt go to most of the activities and made it clear he does not want to share the same space with me. I love those kids like my own and miss them very much. Im at a loss to find a solution.

  • Lara August 6th, 2014 at 3:53 PM #35

    Alana I hope you read this. I just came back from my former step son’s wedding. And the whole group, exes and kids, have gotten together for holidays. His father and I have been divorced for 20 years, but this has only happened recently. Because the kids are grown the events center around them, and we parents have to behave. And mostly we do! But it took this long to get here. Don’t give up, and don’t let the negative get to you.

  • L August 16th, 2014 at 8:14 PM #36

    Was dating a man with sole custody of his two kids and bonded week with them. Although it was probably too early to meet them. And I suppose they weren’t that close to me, I was like a fun new person in their lives. As it turned out my then boyfriend was a real piece of work and the relationship didn’t work out.

    The entire situation has made me reconsider my ideas of taking on a step parent. If I ever try it again, I’d definitely make sure my relationship with the man was on solid foundations before meeting the kids. Not only did I find it difficult separating from them, but my attachment made it easy for their father to manipulate me.

  • L August 16th, 2014 at 8:17 PM #37

    Wow, I have to say I’m impressed. You’re quite mature and seem to have a very clearheaded view of it all. I should take some lessons. :)

  • L August 16th, 2014 at 8:27 PM #38

    Maybe have her talk to a counselor, or a “cool” auntie about it? I feel she’s old enough to make her own decision as to how she wants to handle her dad but is naturally feeling conflicted. I think she just needs someone to help her understand and sort out her own feelings and then whatever she decides, you can be supportive.

  • olivia August 19th, 2014 at 3:06 AM #39

    Alana, I’m going to fight a little harder because of your post. I’m between a rock and a hard place. My husband seems to be a compulsive liar and he is an addict. I love him, but I’ve been praying to know if I need to leave or stay. Sometimes the only thing keeping me with him is my stepson. He was a baby when we got married, and I love him to pieces. He’s mine. He lives with us. We also have another child together. I know I’d still see that child because I’d have custody of him, but the thought of not being a part of my stepson’s life (in a mother way) and not helping to raise him in a safe environment devastates me. I can’t do that to him. He needs me. If I leave, I don’t know what would happen to him. As it is now, he doesn’t even know his dad has a problem and he is safe. So, as miserable as I am being with a man who lies to me regularly, it’s not about me anymore. I will not be a victim or a doormat, but I will continue to be a good mother to my children.

  • Sofie August 30th, 2014 at 4:57 AM #40

    Don’t stay unless you can’t live without him :( If you can’t even talk to him about concerns you have with his adult kids there isn’t any hope though…

  • Sadden Situation August 31st, 2014 at 11:01 AM #41

    I’ve been with my husband for 20 years and he had children previously and the mother is always working out of town, so I’ve helped my husband with my children we had his

  • Misty September 1st, 2014 at 11:01 AM #42

    I’m in the same boat. My boyfriend says its over but there’s a 7 year old boy that I’ve raised like my own since he was one. I’m devastated and don’t know what to do.

  • iris September 2nd, 2014 at 5:58 PM #43

    You are not doing you or the child any good staying in a bad relationship. Stop dragging yourself down. Have self respect and learn to love yourself.

  • priya September 6th, 2014 at 1:38 PM #44

    Me too in same situation.can anyone tell the suggestion for this

  • Tiara September 9th, 2014 at 12:45 AM #45

    I’m getting married next year in March. I’m 24 and my fiancé is 35. He has a previous biological daughter (15) from his first marriage whom I love and she’s sweet to me.
    He also has three step children(well step adults) 18 year old ex step daughter and 20, and 22 year old ex step sons. Even though his biological daughter loves me…. His ex step adults aren’t too keen on me marrying their ex-step father.
    Should I care that they don’t like me… Should they even be considered a problem. he’s not with their mom any more and they are adults. The ex step kids have a problem with me only being 2 years older than the oldest ex step son. But my husband was a young step dad too. He was 17 when he became a stepdad to 3 kids. (There mom is 8 years older than my fiancé)

    How do u deal with EX step kids

  • Tiara September 9th, 2014 at 12:52 AM #46

    My fiancé has three ex step kids (18-22) I don’t understand why he feels responsible for taking care of three adult ex step kids. He did a great job stepping in when the real father died. They are adults now. And he’s marrying me. Am I being selfish or realistic

  • Mel September 12th, 2014 at 5:49 AM #47

    I have a same situation my husband and I have been marriage for 15 years it’s my husband 3 times marriage and it’s my first time no kids between us but he has 3 growing up girls and I have 1 daughter she is 24yrs old. He is a soft nature man he loves my daughter very much as well as my daughter toward him she call him dad.We have different background the way I bought up in my country we look after our parents till they die kids do not answer back to their parent or anyone older than them. We teach n training up our kids from young age how to mop, vacuuming, mow the lawn and etc but hubby culture the parent spoil kids with pocket money n etc. it take long time before the girls like me but I don’t care. When I marriage him he has a lot of deb and no job I was a single mum of 1 full time job my daughter at private school. I have 5 stepsgrand kids I love them dearly and the girls except me cause without me helping there dad looking for a job and help him to be a deb free. My big problem is his step son from the first wife he only rings up when he wants something and he always give him money but he alway smoke, drinking , jail stealing and raping and he is not his son. He raised him when he was 6 months old and when he was 5 his mum ran away with another man and left her four kids from my hubby as well as her son from another man to him. He help him all his life and now his 34 just out of the jail from raping someone he has 3 kids 1 from the ex partner n two from the wife still together and now he wants to move closed to us I am not comfortable with and I don’t want to have anything to do with him

  • inquestion September 15th, 2014 at 2:44 AM #48

    I have been married for 2 years. I have grown children out of the house and my husband never had children, but he had troubled step kids from a previous marriage that are also adults. Every time there is any type of issue, the ex-wife is contacting my husband. That bothers me, because I feel she should be crying on her husband’s shoulder, not my husband’s (the one she chose to divorce). And her contact with him is not always limited to “her having an issue”. After witnessing her manipulation of my husband on several occasions, I get the feeling that she is doing it just to show me that she can … am I totally off the mark here? How do I handle this tactfully with my husband, and not make him feel like I distrust him.

  • Perdida September 18th, 2014 at 1:37 AM #49

    Olivia, I am in nearly the same situation. My partner has sole custody of “our” girl, who was pretty horribly neglected by her mother. I went through the (bitter, expensive) court battle with him once things got so bad at her mom’s that we lived in constant fear for his daughter.

    I have loved this child as my own even before we were granted full custody, and took care of her before that too (WE tended to her medical care, school meetings,etc. because he doesn’t drive and her mom couldn’t manage to get things done.)

    10 years in, I can’t bear to leave this man I love but SHOULD leave because not only will I lose her, I truly believe he cannot meet her needs alone. He has too many problems of his own, no income (he hasn’t worked in years. They would have only her small disability payment.), and he’s backslid into active alcoholism and the abuse (nearly exclusively verbal, but recently escalating) that comes with it.

    Trust me, Iris. This is not a favor to myself, to be sure, but I’m damned if I’m going to leave a special needs kid here with him while he’s like that OR send her back to her mother, who is a different kind of worse, despite lots of years of us (and many others) trying to help her, and help her help her kids. (yes, she has two more, neither of whom are lucky enough to have. Daddy. one killed himself and the other is in prison.)

    I can take nearly anything to try to give her the shot at life her (biological) folks can’t.

    They love her, and they are her parents. I get that. I work hard even now to help the child maintain a long distance relationship with her mom (since the court took away her visitation), but frankly her mom is not any more interested in that than she was in taking care of her. What I’m saying is that as far as she’s concerned, I’m her mommy. She has asked, during her day’s angrier times, why she and I can’t just move to our own place and leave daddy. What’s that tell you? How can I leave her here? She already has abandonment issues (because her mother, in multiple ways.)

    I have no idea what to do other than take it one day at a time, and do the best I can for her.

    I have no one to talk to about this. My mother has died. The people I know here are mostly professional contacts. So thank you to listening.

  • Tammy September 25th, 2014 at 9:06 PM #50

    I am recently divorced from an almost 5 year marriage where I had 2 stepsons that I treated as my own. I do not have any biological children. In fact, the youngest was 3 when we got together and he kind of became my baby. I have a wonderful relationship with their mom. In fact, I consider her a friend. Since my divorce, I have moved back home with my parents and I am dating again. My parents and family have made it clear that the do not think I should see the kids or their mom. Unfortunately, I have listened and I have not seen them in almost 5 months. It bothers me because I spent a lot of time with them and now I feel like they were just ripped out from under me. Their mom has invited me several times to come see them and that they miss me. I just don’t know what to do…..

  • Rachel September 28th, 2014 at 3:38 PM #51

    I married a man with three stepdaughters, the youngest was 17 when he and her mother divorced, she was around five when they got together. Her mother left her with him and he accepted to take care of her financially until she turned 18. When he and her mother divorced, however, his stepdaughter moved out of the house to his parents house not giving a reason why.

    When I met him and heard the situation my broke for her. Her mother abandoned her, cheated on my now husband and got mixed up with drugs.

    I wanted my now husband and his former stepdaughter to continue to have a relationship. I did what I could such as give her gifts and money. I also felt tension with her, feeling she couldn’t accept me. I was even told she was jealous of our relationship. I admit I was a little standoffish with her because of the tension. But as time went on my husband suddenly dropped his relationship with her citing because he was no longer financially obligated to her, she was still having contact with her mom (which she denied) and that he was entitled to move on. This ended up putting me in the middle and me blamed for him ending their relationship. His family continues to have a relationship with her and even threw a wedding reception for her, which he and I didn’t attend as well as her wedding (the wedding was four hours away to keep certain people from attending). Neither of us attending her reception a week after her wedding caused a conflict within the family, but resulted in some air being cleared about what has been going on.

    I later learned that my husband was upset that she didn’t ask him to give her away at her wedding, she told him it was because he quit having contact with her but we also heard it would be a conflict with her biological father, who she has very little to do with. My husband’s father and brother in law walked her down the aisle.

    I have felt conflicted because my husband doesn’t want to have anything to do with her and his family does. I understand that his divorce from his ex was very bitter and I think he kind of blames his former stepdaughter for not telling him of the affair that she was aware of. I was told that she and him had a very close relationship and the few times she texted him since he and I been together she would go back and forth in calling him her dad and her stepdad. She also halfway ignored him and I when his family had gatherings and we were all together. She later said I kept him from her. She has done very little to attempt to continue a relationship with him and I feel she hasn’t treated him much like a dad. I lost my dad when I was twenty and I felt we weren’t on good terms when he died and it kills me to think that she has given up on her “dad”. If my husband wants a relationship with her I’ll 100% support it. But right now she’s hot and cold with both of us and I don’t know what to do.

  • YVETTE R September 30th, 2014 at 9:33 PM #52

    I married young to a man who had 2 children from his first wife. My step daughter was 3 and step son was 6(who wasn’t biologically his). Soon after there seperation he had another son from a different woman. We married and a year later we had our own son. From the beginning I fell in love with my 2 first stepkids. The other mother wanted nothing to do with my husband. My husband was in the military and gone a lot. So eventually called the first wife to ask to see my stepkids. She had remarried and had another son as well. We al went to hang out and realized that since my Husband didnt care much to be a father and have his kids grow up together, the first wife and I became very close. My husband was very abusive towards us and after 10 years I divorced him. I maintained a relationship with my stepkids and there mother. And in fact there mother and I became best friends. eventually she too left her husband. And since my ex husband doesnt care much to have his kids around, her and I have been raising our kids together. even my son and her son from her second marriage. We vacation together and Co parent our children. Some people tell me I need to cut all ties with them. But we are mature enough that it is not our kids fault for ur mistakes and that regardless they are siblings. SO I feel that for your children you can put aside certain differences.

  • Joanne October 10th, 2014 at 1:18 AM #53

    If the relationship with the steps was ‘forced’ or not so good before a divorce, it sure as heck isn’t going to magically improve later. Can’t help but wonder if some souls are meant to get along and other not. No sense trying to make a not so good thing workout if it isn’t meant to be in the long term view.
    But having said there is some consolation in knowing that if you tried as well as gave of your time and efforts during the period of time you had the step children then: be content with that. Sometimes you aren’t meant to be a long term influence in a young person’s life. Doesn’t mean you are a bad person. Just means it wasn’t a long-term involvement. Be at peace with that and then let it go. Move on. There are many other people awaiting your help, time, and love out there in the big ol world.

  • Sam October 11th, 2014 at 1:29 AM #54

    My friend collects stepchildren. She married one guy who had a kid in diapers. The kid is almost an adult and has not seen her in YEARS! She moved on to marry another guy with a family and still calls Bobby her son. Judge Judy says once you divorce the kid(s) is/are nothing to the step parent. I believe this too, even if he kids are raised by someone who is not a real parent.

  • Jen October 13th, 2014 at 7:03 AM #55

    While I was not particularly close to my step children, I have a son with their dad, who has now passed away. I am not keen to maintain a close relationship with the step kids (all adults now) as we did not always have a great relationship, but remain in cordial contact for my son’s sake so that he has the option to see them once he’s an adult. It’s not my favourite situation, but I realise I have an obligation to my husband and son to maintain the relationship until he’s old enough to make his own decision.

  • Brook October 19th, 2014 at 1:36 PM #56

    I’m like you. My wife had 5 kids nd I helped her raise three of them over the last 4 years. We have really bonded. Their mother surprised me with a divorce announcement and, even though I will live nearby and can visit the kids, they will move to another state at the end of the school year… And that will be it. I don’t have biological children and I will miss not helping them through school, sports, life. Heartbroken.

  • Dan October 21st, 2014 at 4:13 AM #57

    I lost a beautiful step granddaughter because of a divorce. I have not seen her for 3 years. I had to walk away from her. It still hurts. life can be very cruel.

  • Tim October 22nd, 2014 at 8:23 PM #58

    An amicable divorce should always be the primary goal for any couple whose relationship is coming to an end. It is always in the best interest of the children involved (and indeed other family members involved such as in Dan’s case) to have a functional relationship at some level afterwards

  • Megan October 25th, 2014 at 1:00 PM #59

    It really depends on the individual relationship between the child and the parent. I have remained in contact with my step-father after his and my mother’s divorce. I met him when I was 7, they had my sister when I was 9 and when he left I was 15 and just as upset as my sister was. My own father died when I was a baby,my step-father was the only father I knew. He had three children from a previous marriage and I remained in contact with them and their mother after the divorce. Only recently have I lost touch a little because we all live in different states but we all catch up from time to time. I would have been very hurt if everyone had cut off contact with me because of the divorce. If the relationship between the kids and parent were good, why break that bond?

  • Rachel October 28th, 2014 at 2:51 PM #60

    My dad just passed away a few days ago. He never left a will behind so the rights went automatically to my little sister as he was her biological child. My dad raised me since I was 6 months old and even after him and my mom split he was still my dad. I had a closer relationship with my dad then my little sister did and she is going through all of his things alone. This is killing me because now that he is gone it was as if he was never my dad. My biological father was a rapist and child molester and I never new him. I met him once in life for 2 hours and when he passed I could’ve cared less. To us children who’s first memory of a dad as a child was a step-parent, there is no difference. I never looked at him any different. NEVER!

  • Marlene November 6th, 2014 at 4:30 AM #61

    I have been married 25 years one stepson and one stepdaughter. Treated them with love and respect. My husband did not have a close relationship with children. Mother married and live with second husband for five years. I have consistently been listening cing supportive even though they didn’t even send me a card when I had a second bout of breast cancer 9years ago. One year ago I told stepdaughter to stop bringing up stepfather to my husband as we know they treat him like their real father. She told me never to talk to her in life. How do I cope because it’s hurt my husband and me as well

  • Julie November 7th, 2014 at 11:48 AM #62

    I was married for 11 years had 2 children and then divorced. When we married I became a step mother to a wonderful 5 years old little boy who I still love today! He no longer speaks to my EX but, he does keep in touch with me and my two children. I am happy to say that I’m on my way out of town with my kids to attend his wedding!!! He’s now 29! I think it all depends upon the relationship as to if it should continue or not.

  • Rose November 8th, 2014 at 8:07 AM #63

    I think you should see them. There is a good relationship and love that you have for the children, what difference does it make to anybody else that you see them. Children can never have too many people to love them.

  • Elle November 14th, 2014 at 9:51 AM #64

    I have a close relationship with my ex-stepson but don’t know how to introduce him now that I divorced his dad. Any suggestions?

  • Shay November 16th, 2014 at 8:43 PM #65

    Currently breaking up with a man who had treated my daughter like his own for6 years. She has asked to continue to be a part of his life. I’m ok for whatever makes this less messy. They love each other and he was her stepdad so, why not!

  • Jen November 25th, 2014 at 10:01 PM #66

    My ex-husband and I dated for 5 years and were only married for a year before he moved out suddenly while I was at work one day. For 6 years(50/50 shared custody) I was a M.O.M. (‘my other mother’), the term my stepson and step daughter came up with even before I was legally their stepmom. The divorce happened so suddenly and so shockingly that I am still at odds with my place in this world. Those wonderful kids that I love dearly, the ones I cared for daily, the ones who made me feel complete are gone now. I’m not a MOM anymore and it hurts beyond what words can express. Though I was only a step mom for a year, I cared for them for 6 and those six years were the best years of my adult life, years that included family vacations, road trips, learning to read, learning to ride bikes, caring for a home together, learning life lessons and counseling one another.
    If you are considering divorce, or excluding a stepparent from your adult life or making the decision as a biological parent for your young child to remove a caretaker from their life abruptly; PLEASE, take your time and consider the options and possibilities of maintaining and fostering positive relationships throughout and beyond divorce. There may be more than one broken heart you can save with a little extra caution and courtesy taken into consideration.

  • katy November 29th, 2014 at 1:53 PM #67

    I need help. ..how do i stop my stepdaughter’s adult sister from showing up at our house for special occasions or holidays. My stepdaughter is 12 and I’ve been raising her since she was 6. We have her in private school, sports activities. But when her 22 year old sister with her 2 minor kids show up uninvited, my daughter acts out for about 2 or 3 months. Then she gets good and sweet again until the next show up. My husband and I would like to stop the visits. How do we do this. This woman is immature and relentless. She demands her basketball schedule and showed up a couple of times and then quit coming and our daughter was sad. I just don’t look forward to my daughter’s acting out. Can we get a civil restraining order on basis of unwanted contact. By the way, their mother is a meth addict, who stopped showing up to supervised visits 2 years ago. We had our daughter in therapy for about 3 years, until the therapist told us we had a very happy kid, and well she adjusted kid. This was about 2 years ago. Thanks

  • Amber December 11th, 2014 at 10:17 PM #68

    I am currently on the outs with my husband who had been the only father my two children have ever know. Within the last 2 months he has gone from my best friend and man I love to someone I don’t even recognize. We have 1 daughter together. He left last week to start a trial seperation, since then he has seen his biological daughter but hasn’t spent much time with my older two. They are feeling his absence and tonight my daughter cried herself to sleep begging Santa or god to trade christmas for her daddy back. This situation is not an easy one, and I am at a loss. If he comes back, they will be upset with him, but I am sure things will go back to normal…but if we don’t reconcile then our divorce will surely mess them up. My husband has even made comments of “weening” them from him just in case we divorce, obviously not intending to stay in contact with them. don’t know what to do? They are young but not young enough to where this will not seriously affect them. What do I do?

  • Guy February 23rd, 2015 at 9:42 PM #69

    I believe that this topic hinges on the type of relationship shared between the step and the children/grandchildren. In my situation, I would simply part ways and start life over alone which is what I completely expect to be a mutual agreement between all parties. Mom and Dad of the grandchildren will have to bear the part of explaining to the grandchildren but I perceive that this won’t hurt as bad as it would seem. I believe that I am easily separable from their lives without much if any sense of loss.

  • cross road March 13th, 2015 at 6:49 AM #70

    My husband and I have been married for 8 years now, I have a son 14 from a previous marriage and he has two children from a previous relationship 13 and 12. For the past 8 years we have financially struggled where we are living now. I recently recieved a job offer 3 hours away and decided to take the offer. Before I did we talked about relocating many times. Now that it is getting close to the moving day, he is going thru alot of emotions regarding his children, as he should be. From my point of view he has not really been a connected father. They just know he is there, the mother does not inforce visitation days or keep in contact with what is going on with them. He always finds out third party, he has tried to correct the situation many times and has tried to grasp a hold of doing his role as a dad. It only seems convienant for her to call when she cant handle and issue. On top of that he pays his child support and I also support her when she cannot afford things for the children, We together have been supporting our household and hers. I dont mind helping out but i feel if that is what we have to do, Id rather not go broke doing it. At this time I feel like I am making him choose which I am not. I know we love eachother but at the same time finacially we are suffering! Between his layoffs and me working two jobs just to make ends meet, im tired of the cycle. He says he wants to move but is scared that the children will hate him, I have tried to reassure him that everything will work out and summer is coming up soon and we will have them for visitation like always. Summer is when we have them the most. During school is when we hardley see them. His grandparents are involved with the kids also, as well as his dad. Im not sure what to do at this point I told him if he does not feel comfortable moving that he should not. I have told him I am replaceable but his children are not. I understand. Im not sure what else to tell him? Can anyone help?

  • Lynn March 21st, 2015 at 9:06 AM #71

    I have been with my husband 4 years, second marriage for both. I left him 10 months ago for 6 weeks, but came home because he asked me to everyday. He has a 12 yr old son and 10 yr old daughter. My daughter from my ex is 9. All of them live with us now. My marriage has been suffering for over two years and is very unhealthy in many ways. My husband was in the military and has emotional issues as a result. He drinks heavily in the evening. He is a control freak: makes all decisions, controls most of the money, all decisions with the kids, even my own daughter. He is the “man of the house”, if you know what I mean. He is resentful and angry if I question him about his decisions. This anger me because he stays home and has his military retirement to live off of while I work full time. He is a good father, but curses, yells, and is emotionally abusive to his kids and to me often. He won’t go to church, and loves to argue. I can’t have a conversation about anything he may be doing wrong without him yelling and screaming. He has punched holes in walls, pushed me, called me names. He is angry and bitter, and I don’t believe he sees himself the way the rest of us do. I feel we are not growing together and that our marriage is very unhealthy. Despite our constant “talks” which of more like “his lectures to me”, we continue to grow apart. I haven’t divorced because of the kids. They are crazy about each other, soooo very close. What should I do if I can’t fix this? I don’t want to hurt my babies. I love them all so much. I just don’t even feel comfortable around my husband anymore. Everything is dependent on his mood. That’s how it is everyday.

    Please any advice is appreciated.

  • The GoodTherapy.org Team The GoodTherapy.org Team March 21st, 2015 at 2:35 PM #72

    Thank you for your comment, Lynn. We wanted to provide links to some resources that may be relevant to you here. We have more information about domestic violence at http://www.goodtherapy.org/therapy-for-domestic-violence.html and additional information about what to do in a crisis at http://www.goodtherapy.org/in-crisis.html

    Warm regards,
    The GoodTherapy.org Team

  • wilson h. March 23rd, 2015 at 12:09 PM #73

    hi! my name is wilson and I have a “step” brother That will turn 5 soon . My mother recently passed away and since then my step father has been refusing ne and my older brother to see him . We love him like his my brother and there’s no “step” to us. I really want to know if there is anyway that he will have too let us see him legally! thank you very much .

  • Dimple Lemon March 24th, 2015 at 2:45 PM #74

    I was married for 5 years. My husband and I got a divoce 4 years ago. We had a daughter together. And I have a son from a previous relationship. My ex husband like to hang out with my oldest son(20) more then his own daughter. He is in a new relationship and they just built a house together. Maybe getting married soon.(Not sure). So why do he still like hanging around my son? And he finds his way to my house everytime.they are hanging out.Also his new lady has older kids. So why is he not hanging with them? Please help me to understand this!

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